Former England rugby union star Ben Cohen has revealed that his father’s death 11 years ago spurred him to create an anti-bullying foundation.

Speaking at London Pride on Saturday, where he joined the parade, Cohen said his father was killed when he stepped in to protect a man who was being beaten.

Peter Cohen, 58, a former nightclub owner, was attacked in October 2000 at a club owned by his older son when trying to break up a fight. He died in hospital a month later.

The married rugby player set up his anti-bullying charity StandUp in 2006 and has used his popularity with gay men to speak out about homophobia.

Speaking to PinkNews.co.uk on Saturday, he said his family’s experiences had spurred him to do something about the issue.

He said: “My dad was killed trying to protect someone being beaten up, bullied.”

When asked why he had become a gay rights campaigner, he said: “I’m not into gay rights. It’s about bullying, about people perceived to be different. We do take a specific look at LGBT – I have a big following, they’re very loyal.

“Rugby is very inclusive – all shapes and sizes make up a team. And your sexual orientation doesn’t matter, as Gareth Thomas shows.”

The player added that he had enjoyed his first Pride event, saying: “It’s been good, very enlightening. I’ve seen London in a different light.”